Chapter #1104

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                                   +   +
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                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic VI      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2022 by Thomas A. Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons        +
+   or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.       +
+   Copying and/or distribution of these stories is permissible under     +
+   the sole condition that no money is made in the process.  In that     +
+   case, I hope you enjoy them!                                          +
+   Belphanior     18th/18th/18th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+     Hope         16th level female human wizard                         +
+       Poulos      8th level human warrior                               +
+     Irina        14th/7th level female human priestess/warrior          +
+     Otto         12th/14th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+     Paige        13th level human female warrior                        +
+     Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                             +
+     Skektek      14th level human wizard                                +
+     Ys           14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+                                                                         +
+   ALLIES                                                                +
+     Kronos       ancient lich wizard                                    +
+     Pallin       18th level grey elven wizard of Celestian, teleporter  +
+     Parekh       18th level female human wizard, innovator              +
+       Drak       15th level human barbarian warrior                     +
+   Date:          4/14/586 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         Parekh's home (exact location unknown)                 +
+   Climate:       cool and pleasant                                      +
+   "I am a woman of infinite surprises."                                 +
+                - Mrs. Frederick, from _Warehouse 13_ episode _Endless_  +

                   MCIV.  Missing Companions

  Since the previous day, Belphanior and the others had been guests in
Parekh's home, where the elf waited for news about the location of Neera
and the two others.  Kronos had not returned the night before, and it was
now a new day...but Belphanior was still on edge, still frustrated.  He
had a number of things he needed to do - find the missing companions,
figure out who plundered the vault, find and deal with them, check in on
his friends and other interests in other parts of the world, and find a
new home, roughly in that order - and he was ready to get to work.

Parekh:  (discussing this with the elf as everyone is gathered in a large
  hall, eating breakfast and talking among themselves)  I'm sure it won't
  be much longer, especially given what the lich told us yesterday.
Belphanior:  (absently running his hand across his sword's pommel)
Drak:  (piling his plate with enough ham, eggs, and bread to feed three
  normal people)  If I was in this situation, I'd be planning for blood to
  flow and heads to roll, that's for damn sure.
Parekh:  (casts him a sidelong glance)  You're...not helping.
Drak:  (shrugs his huge shoulders, and begins shoveling huge bites of food
  into his mouth)
Belphanior:  He's right.  There's work to be done...swift, violent work.
  The sooner I get started, the better.  (he nods in the direction of Otto
  and all the others, sitting at nearby tables)  And they feel the same
  way, although it might not look that way.
Parekh:  I'm sure they do.
Pallin:  Wherever Kronos finds your friends, I can open a portal to take
  us there.  The only question is, where will we be going?
Parekh:  And what will we face there?
Belphanior:  Whoever attacked the vault and took Neera, the girl, and the
  gnome will regret the day they were born.  The only thing worse than
  their course of action was their timing.  I haven't been this angry in
  a long time.
Parekh:  (blinks suddenly)  We have company.

  Moments later, Kronos entered the dining hall, having obviously made
his way here and initially appeared in an adjacent room.  As usual, the
pale lich gave no hint of his mood, or what he had found; his face was
impassive, his red eyes unreadable.

Belphanior:  (stands)
Kronos:  You are in luck.  Your companions are not on this world, nor
  anywhere in the Prime Material Plane.  Similarly, they are not amidst
  the Inner Planes, or the Outer Planes...or the Astral Plane or Ethereal
Parekh:  (frowns)  And how is this good news?
Pallin:  (by process of deduction, he comes to a guess a bit sooner than
  any of the others)  Demiplane.
Kronos:  (nods)  Somehow - and even I have no idea exactly how - your
  missing companions seem to have located and ventured to a demiplane, a
  pocket dimension nestled between larger and more prominent ones.
Parekh:  (to Belphanior)  Did Neera have the power to do that?
Belphanior:  Not that I know of...but remember, a lot of time passed while
  we were away.  We don't know what happened, and we won't know until we
  reunite with them.  (he turns to Kronos)  What else do you know?  What
  is the nature of this demiplane?  Does magic function there?  Is there
  air to breathe?  Do we need to make any special preparations?
Kronos:  They are safe.  Their location is little more than a tiny sliver
  of a dimension - in fact, it almost appears that it was created even as
  they ventured there.  At any rate, there will be no issues there.
Parekh:  Now I know Neera didn't have the power to do _that_.
Belphanior:  (thinking about all the magic items and arcane lore that had
  been in the vault, and the years Neera had to study them)  Maybe...
Pallin:  (to Kronos)  I can open a portal there; I simply need to know the know what you know.
Kronos:  I have a trivial spell, one that will allow me to impart that
  information to you.  (he regards the grey elf questioningly)
Pallin:  (nods)  Proceed.

  The lich uttered some arcane words of power in an ancient language, and
then clasped the other's shoulder gently.  By means of the spell, all that
Kronos has seen and learned of that demiplane was shared with Pallin...
which would allow the elf to accurately locate the destination and create
a gateway between their current location and the other.

Kronos:  (removes his hand from Pallin's shoulder)
Pallin:  (opens his eyes)  I can now visualize the demiplane as if I'd
  actually been there myself.  Which means you also have those details
  within your mind.  Is it truly that powerful, this thr-
Kronos:  It is.
Parekh:  (to Pallin)  Are you ready?
Pallin:  (nods)  The way is clear to me.  Generating the portal will be
  child's play.
Belphanior:  (to Parekh)  I'm as eager to get this done as anyone, but
  are you really going to initiate this doorway from here, in your own
  home?  What if something goes wrong?
Parekh:  I am prepared for this sort of thing.  (she turns to leave the
  chamber)  Follow me, whoever wants to be involved in this.
Paige:  (to Hope)  This should be interesting...whatever the hell it turns
  out to be.

  Of course, everyone came along; these were adventurers, driven by the
need to see and explore the unknown.  None of them wanted to miss such a
thing as a doorway opened between dimensions...well, almost none of them.

Razor Charlie:  (looking at all the tasty food on the table, then thinking
  about other worlds, he grimaces before getting up to follow the rest)

  Parekh led them through a long hallway, on either side of which were
doors at periodic intervals; these led to other rooms and areas.  Unlike
many castles and houses, the sorceress' home was simply designed and quite
functional.  One end of the long hall had a short set of stairs leading
up to living quarters, including those for guests.  The main length of
the passage held the feasting hall, the kitchen, storage rooms, a library,
and other such common spaces.  The far end of the hall - where they now
headed - ended in another short set of stairs, this one descending before
ending in a simple wooden door.  This portal held powerful protective
enchantments, and could be quite difficult to bypass when it needed to be.
Beyond was a central chamber with passages radiating outward, like a star;
these all led to workrooms, laboratories, and the of which was
rather special.

Parekh:  (leads everyone down one corridor, which ends in a large, metal
  hatch-like door that looks as if it could stop a golem)  Drak, if you
  wouldn't mind?
Drak:  Of course not.  (he takes hold of the metal wheel protruding from
  the door, and grunts as he applies his immense strength to it)
Parekh:  (turns to the others helpfully)  While this chamber has numerous
  magical wards and protections, the door yet requires a great deal of
  physical strength to open.  It's another level of protection, just like
  the lead and other metals built into both the door and the entire room
Kronos:  (nods, understanding this sort of thinking)
Belphanior:  (eyes the lich)  You're still here?  I though you weren't
  going to help after finding Neera and the others for us?
Kronos:  (cryptically)  I have...changed my mind.
Belphanior:  Suit yourself.

  The thick metal hatchway opened into a room unlike anything they had
ever seen before.  It was vast, without visible walls or ceiling; this
was in part due to the darkness that cloaked the gigantic chamber.  The
only illumination came from the floor, which was fashioned of reddish
stone, at least in the thirty-foot-wide path leading from the entry door
into the place.

Parekh:  (turns around to address the entire group)  I would suggest you
  do not stray from this walkway.

  That might have been easy to do, given the singular object at the far
end a hundred feet distant, and the way it utterly dominated the room.  It
was a gigantic, silvery metal frame, not unlike a picture frame...but the
thing was colossal.  At least thirty feet wide and perhaps twice that in
height, the oversized frame lacked an actual picture within its gigantic
border - just a smooth, dull gray surface.

Parekh:  (heads toward the far end of the vast room)  You may be wondering
  what this chamber is, though some of you may have begun to guess.
Skektek:  (comments sarcastically to Otto, in a low voice)  I figured it
  out already.  It's the world's largest and dirtiest mirror.
Otto:  Somehow, I doubt that.
Parekh:  It isn't a mirror, though there might be some sort of analogy
  there for lesser minds to grasp at.
Skektek:  (shocked that she could hear him, he fumes wordlessly but wisely
  holds his tongue)
Parekh:  This is where I deal with other worlds, other planes; in case
  something goes wrong, the...problem will be confined to just this area.
Belphanior:  That's a good idea.  Brilliant, actually.
Pallin:  (flatly)  I assisted with its design and construction.
Parekh:  From here, we can work the necessary magic to open the portal
  to the demiplane.  (she reaches the flat vertical panel at the far end,
  touching the dull gray surface while speaking words of command in a low

  The result was nothing short of amazing:  the blank area within the
frame gradually faded away, revealing a field of stars like one might see
by looking up into the sky on a clear night.

Skektek:  (gapes, his earlier joke suddenly forgotten)  Whoa.
Parekh:  Behold...the multiverse.  Or at least, a one-way window into it.
  From here, it is faster and easier to open portals to other planes of
Razor Charlie:  (silently wondering if "faster and easier" should ever
  apply to doorways between this world and alien ones)
Kronos:  (folds his arms, studying the gigantic object)  Impressive.
Parekh:  It was no easy matter to build this, let me assure you.
Belphanior:  But you did, and we're here.  (he sets his jaw)  So we're
  that much closer to getting the others back?
Pallin:  (nods)  I am ready.

next:       recovery
released:   4/22/2022
notes:      My inspiration for Parekh's magical planar-window chamber was
  the portal to the Negative Zone, within the Baxter Building, in the
  classic _Fantastic Four_ comics of the 1960s and 1970s.  There's also a
  tribute to that in _Planetary_ issue 6 as the protagonists explore the
  headquarters of a hostile organization.

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